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Caddie Chatter

Continued (page 4 of 4)

WHEN TIGER CAME ON TOUR, the money immediately got better for everybody. He's made everybody on tour at least twice as much money as they would have made otherwise. I asked the CEO of a major bank that was sponsoring a tournament how much money the bank would be willing to put up if Tiger didn't exist. He said 25 percent of what it was putting up.

I DOUBLED MY SALARY at the Players one year before the tournament ever started. The caddies traditionally hit a tee shot to the island-green 17th during the Wednesday practice round, with the players heckling them. Michael Campbell offered to double his caddie's salary for the week if he hit the green. I teed up my ball and Fred goes, "Double or nothing on your salary." I said, "Absolutely"--and hit a 9-iron on the green. His mistake was waiting until the last minute so I had no time to get nervous. If he'd said it on the 14th hole, I'd have had no chance.

WITH FRED, I feel like I'm not only a caddie, I'm more part of the family and a business partner. The Funks and I see a lot of each other around home [Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla.]. Fred and I are designing a golf course together north of Denver. And I fall into a lot of perks like getting to tag along on the private jet.

FAMOUS PEOPLE are always inviting us--I mean Fred, and thus us--to big events in their sports. Joe Torre had us to Yankee Stadium when he was managing, and we went on the field for batting practice. A-Rod came over and said hello. Dale Jarrett hosted us at Talladega, where we toured pit row and saw the race. We watched a Super Bowl in Jacksonville from Jack Del Rio's box, with Gene Hackman, and flew to the West Coast on a private jet the next day with Lynn Swann. Swann told a story about getting his leg gashed in a game with Houston and being treated in the medical area. Earl Campbell was in there with broken ribs. Swann got stitched up, and Campbell was laughing. Swann wanted to know what was so funny. Campbell said, "You gotta go back in."

I'VE PLAYED ALL THE TOP-10 COURSES except for Pine Valley and Augusta National. Mark O'Meara's caddie, Shane Joel, got to play Augusta one year the Sunday before the tournament. He was all jacked up because Phil Mickelson waved him up on the par-5 second hole, and Shane hit a career 3-wood onto the green in two. Then on the next hole, they joined Tiger and played the rest of the way with him. That's a pretty nice first round at Augusta.

THE FIRST ROUNDS of golf for Fred's son, Taylor, were at Augusta National, Winged Foot and Whistling Straits. With a caddie. Roger Clemens taught him how to pitch. Taylor has gone 160 miles an hour in a stock car with Dale Jarrett. Just a normal childhood.

FOR CADDIES, the lifestyle on the Nationwide Tour--now the Web.com Tour--is more like it was on the big tour in the '70s. They're not doing it for the money, they're doing it because they just love it. You might find three or four guys sharing that Motel 6 room, driving everywhere, stop to stop. Of course, it's also like playing the lottery. You're betting that your man is gonna get you to The Show.

THE TOUGHEST DAY for a tour caddie would go like this. You get up early, warm up, rain delay, don't finish, have to sit around all day, have to get up early the next day to play one more hole.

Mark Long

Mark Long and Fred Funk during the final round of the Jeld-Wen Tradition at the Crosswater Club at Sunriver.
Photo: Darren Carroll/Getty Images

FOR MORE THAN A FEW players the three-hour practice session consists of 30 minutes' practice and ½ hours talking to agents, caddies, reps and each other. Everybody'd always check in with Peter Jacobsen--Jake is The Mayor. One time when Fluff wasn't feeling well, he finally came up to Jake and said, "Pee-tah, are we gonna work or are we gonna talk?" Fluff got the rest of the day off. You gotta have a lot of seniority to say something like that. Of course, if you worked for Jake, you'd want to stick around all day for the stories and the entertainment.

THE WEIGHT of a tour pro's bag is over-estimated. I've read reports of 50 pounds. The Funkster's bag typically weighs about 35 pounds. It does get heavier if you have to pack raingear and towels that get wet, but you get used to it.

IF I EVER FELT SORRY for myself lugging it around for five or six miles a day, I never could again after sharing an airport shuttle ride with a career Marine headed to Iraq while I was headed for a tournament somewhere in paradise. He'd be carrying 70 pounds of gear in impossible heat and getting shot at. Said he signed up for a combat zone because the pay was better. Said, "Aw, heck, my brothers will get my money if I don't make it back, so either way it's a good deal."

PERSPECTIVE is always a good thing. Be glad that guy is on our team.

YOU'VE PROBABLY HEARD that no man is a hero to his valet. It's the same with players and caddies. You get to know the stars and realize they're just normal people with abnormal skills. And you shouldn't slam a player for a few bad moments, usually in the heat of competition.

MY RULE is that once a pro tees off he's exempt from normally acceptable social behavior and covered by a temporary-insanity defense. You can't take stuff personally if a guy gets carried away in competition. I've played in tournaments myself and got psychotic.

WHAT'S THAT SAYING? The only normal people are people you don't know well enough.

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